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Obama To Nominate Gen. Joseph Dunford As Joint Chiefs Chairman


President Obama has tapped the general who launched the U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In announcing his choice today of Marine General Joe Dunford, Mr. Obama is also leaving his mark on the next presidency. NPR's David Welna reports that Dunford's Senate confirmation appears all but certain.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: General Joe Dunford is no stranger to the Obama White House. President Obama had already put him in charge of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan before making him the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps last October. With Dunford standing at his side in the Rose Garden today, Obama said he's been extraordinarily impressed by the man he's promoting to be the nation's top military officer as well as his chief military adviser.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I know Joe. I trust him. He's already proven his ability to give me his unvarnished military advice based on his experience on the ground.

WELNA: In particular, Obama praised Dunford's overseeing the transition in Afghanistan that's put Afghans in charge of fighting a war that the U.S. started nearly 14 years ago while the U.S. has at least formally ended combat operations there.


OBAMA: He's one of our military's most highly regarded strategic thinkers. He's known and respected by our allies - by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.

WELNA: Obama called on the Senate to confirm Dunford without delay, but that seemed to be pushing on an open door. John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee called Dunford a strong choice to chair the Joint Chiefs. Retired Marine General James Mattis was Dunford's commander during the invasion of Iraq. He calls him absolutely unflappable.

JAMES MATTIS: He never seemed overly interested in promotion. Those of us who knew him knew he would get promoted simply because of his competence, his humility. When the chips are down, that's when he's at his best.

WELNA: Dunford is set to succeed the General Martin Dempsey, a Joint Chiefs chairman whose expressed views sometimes at odds with his commander-in-chief. Those who know Dunford expect him to be frank with the president as well, but to do so in private. If confirmed, the 59-year-old Dunford would likely serve through the first two years of the next president's term. So would Air Force General Paul Selva whom Obama nominated to be the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Obama pointedly noted today that Selva served as Hillary Clinton's military adviser during her tenure as secretary of state.


OBAMA: He understands that our military, as powerful as it is, is one tool that must be used in concert with all the elements of our national power.

WELNA: The two generals Obama has designated to handle that military tool would do so for the remainder of his presidency - a presidency that's resorted to using that option far more than anyone, including Obama, had once expected. David Welna, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.